Scottish care homes have reacted furiously to plans to admit new residents without testing them for coronavirus.
Scottish Care, the body that represents Scotland’s care homes, has told Sky News the proposal is “wholly unacceptable” and carries “additional and intolerable risk”.
The Scottish government has drawn up guidelines to increase coronavirus testing, including for people entering residential care.
Care homes in the Glasgow area are being told that, for new admissions from the community, the COVID-19 test should take place after they have been admitted to the home.
The guidance has been issued by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC).
It says it is in compliance with official advice that a test can take place “before or on admission”, but it has provoked an angry response from care home providers.
They say the health board is contradicting guidelines drawn up by the Scottish government.
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, told Sky News: “We are concerned to hear of any instances where new residents admitted to care homes have not been tested for COVID-19 before they are admitted.
“The care home sector and ministers have been clear that this should be happening, regardless of whether someone is showing symptoms or not.
“This testing is vital for individuals prior to arriving to the home to reduce the risk of virus transmission to care home staff and fellow residents.
“New care home admissions should also be barrier nursed and isolated for seven to 14 days as an additional precaution.
“Scottish Care have already called for testing to be extended and believe any local practice of not testing all new admissions is wholly unacceptable and places a sector working its hardest to keep people safe at additional and intolerable risk.”
One care home provider in Glasgow, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Sky News that admitting a resident without a test is a risk they are not prepared to take.
They are refusing to accept admissions from the community unless they have been tested first.
“We are not prepared to take a risk just to fill a bed,” they said.
“Testing and isolation should come before anyone is admitted.
“Coming from their own home can present a greater risk than coming from a hospital because you don’t know who’s been there with them.
“You can isolate them in their room but they need to travel through the home, perhaps in a lift, and you have to do a deep clean afterwards.
“Asking us to admit anyone without a prior test is just risky and unfair.”
The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland show that, in the week between 20 to 26 April, the numbers dying in care homes accounted for more than half of Scotland’s COVID-19 deaths.
The Scottish government has drawn up a new testing strategy in conjunction with Health Protection Scotland.
It is making tests available to:
- All hospital patients over 70;
- People in hospital with COVID-19 symptoms and patients in intensive care;
- Care home residents who display symptoms;
- People admitted to care homes – if from hospital, they’ll be tested before they leave.
On the issue of testing people admitted to care homes from the community, NHSGGC said in a statement: “National guidance states that ‘admissions to care homes from the community should have at least one test performed before or on admission and be isolated for 14 days’.
“We are working with care homes and our health and social care partnerships to develop local information on the testing of new admissions to care homes.
“We are recommending that any testing of new residents should be undertaken in the care home for two main reasons: we do not wish to delay any emergency admission to a care home; and testing before admission cannot be reliably used to ensure that the person is free of infection when they are admitted to the care home.”